CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WSVN) -- Fire investigators are examining the charred remains of a Coral Gables business believed to have been the target of a fiery attack.
Vivian Mannerud suspects that someone tossed a Molotov cocktail at the
building where she has operated an international charter flight business
that specializes in trips to Cuba since 1982. Most recently, the
Archdiocese of Miami hired the company, Airline Brokers Company Inc., to
transport 300 people from South Florida to the island for the Pope's
historic visit, at the end of March.
Mannerud received a call from the alarm company at 3:15 in the morning,
Friday. She arrived on the scene to find her business gutted and
charred with the windows blown out. "Very, very sad," she said. "It's
horrible, but it's just hard," she said. "It's a sad thing for my
Mannerud spent most of Friday afternoon sobbing outside of her
business, as investigators looked through the rubble and cleaned up the
scene. "It might have been intentional," said Mannerud, convinced that
someone purposefully set her company up in flames. "I can only tell you
what my gut is telling me."
She was finally allowed into her business to retrieve a computer hard
drive which, she says, she needs to file a report with the Department of
The business has been controversial for many years, sending thousands
of people to their native Cuba, and some have shown negative feelings
toward it in the past. Mannerud believes someone may have hit the
building with a Molotov cocktail, but stops short of naming any possible
subjects. "There's people that do not agree with the charter flights to
Cuba and will go to any lengths to stop them," she said.
The ATF, FBI and Fire Marshal enlisted the help of a K-9 unit to sniff
out accelerants or anything else suspicious inside the structure. The
trained dog sat down several times, signifying it found something, which
put officers on alert.
The business owner said she has been targeted in the past, but she is
Three separate incidents occurred in 1996, in which companies
who do business with Cuba were attacked by fire bombs. Mannerud said,
"In my 32 years of business, I've seen this happen to many other
Mannerud plans to rebuild these offices. She said she is not giving up
on what she does, and she believes in providing those charter flights to
Cuba. "I will continue, if I have to sit on this sidewalk and write
things with a chalkboard," she said.
Investigators have cleared the scene. They will take everything they
extracted from the scene and send it in as evidence. It can take weeks
before it is determined whether or not the blaze was intentional.
JG: Cuba Journal has contacted the White House. See Below.
A Miami, Florida, business which specializes in travel to Cuba was fire-bombed last night.
What is the comment or reaction of the White House?
Jorge R. Gonzalez
Publisher/editor of Cuba Journal